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Capitals vs. Ducks Recap: Sanford’s First Goal Lifts Caps, 6-4

Zach Sanford broke a 4-4 tie late in the third.

Anaheim Ducks v Washington Capitals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After a three-goal first period, it looked like the Caps would cruise to yet another home win. But Anaheim scored two goals in the second and two again in the third to eventually knot the game.

Then the Caps’ third line got on the board again. Brett Connolly pulled up on the rush and found Zach Sanford in the slot, and Sanford’s shot bested John Gibson for the game-winner.

Here's Saturday night's Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: Offense. The Caps scored five goals yet again.
  • Minus: Defense. Washington made it exciting for the wrong reasons, giving up several good chances up 1-0 and again up 5-4 late in the third.

And now, this..

Ten more notes on the game:

  • The Caps got on the board first, on the power play (courtesy of a Corey Perry attempt to do “Corey Perry things” not going unnoticed by the referees). The Ducks didn’t use a traditional PK setup, opting to put three players on the strong side and leaving one to guard Alex Ovechkin. But when they strayed, the Caps pounced. Marcus Johansson stepped in as the Ducks’ defensemen were scrambling to guard Matt Niskanen (who had crept in from the point), leaving T.J. Oshie open in the slot. He one-timed Johansson’s pass past Gibson.
  • The Ducks got some good opportunities down 1-0. Ryan Getzlaf, who set up several dangerous chances, found Nick Ritchie for a shot. Antoine Vermette later put a one-timer from the slot high. And Jakub Silfverberg was stopped on a 2-on-1 by Braden Holtby.
  • The Caps added to their lead courtesy of Nicklas Backstrom. Oshie chased down a faceoff loss and passed to Backstrom, who passed to Ovechkin and circled behind the net. Ovechkin’s shot was stopped, but the rebound went right to Backstrom on the other side, who backhanded the puck in. Oshie’s power-play goal was Backstrom’s 700th career point; this was his 701st.
  • The Caps were generating dangerous opportunities on the regular late in the first, and potted another goal before the period was out, as Jay Beagle and Daniel Winnik combined to win the puck below the goal line, and Winnik found Tom Wilson wide open with a wide-open net.
  • The Caps’ second line was the only one that didn’t score, but it was not for lack of opportunities. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, and Justin Williams had their first good chance late in the first, but a pass that would have resulted in a layup hit Johansson’s skate in the low slot. They generated at least five other high-quality opportunities, including a Kuznetsov open-net tap-in were it not for a bouncing puck, and a marvelous save by John Gibson on Williams.
  • The Ducks finally got on the board when Silfverberg’s wrister from outside the faceoff top found the top corner. Although Winnik responded with a long wrister of his own—shorthanded, no less—Anaheim exited the second a goal closer than they started, as Getzlaf set up Hampus Lindholm in the slot. (The play was reviewed for offsides but the replay was deemed inconclusive.)
  • Midway through the third, the Ducks got a goal to pull within one. Ryan Kesler hounded Dmitry Orlov as Orlov tried to carry the puck around his net. Kesler knocked the puck loose, and it slid to Cam Fowler at the point. Fowler carried the puck into the corner and passed back to Kesler in the slot, and his shot beat Holtby.
  • They tied the game two minutes later using a set play off a defensive-zone faceoff. Getzlaf won the draw and bolted down the ice. The Ducks went D-to-D, Fowler’s stretch pass sent Getzlaf in alone, and he beat Holtby.
  • It looked like the game might go to overtime, but the Caps’ vaunted third line managed to get on the board yet again. Brett Connolly carried the puck into the offensive zone, pulled up, and found Sanford in the slot. His shot got past Gibson.
  • Johansson added an empty netter. With his assist on Johansson’s empty-net goal, Backstrom briefly tied Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby for first in the NHL in scoring. (McDavid picked up an assist a minute or two later to retake sole possession of first.)

The Caps have been on the fortunate end of both shooting and save percentage this calendar year, and both of those were bound to come down at some point. The Caps in the last week are starting to see that for save percentage. But now that they’ve reached their week off, the team has plenty of time to rest, refocus, and get back on its defensive game—and try to keep up the offensive magic, too.

Game highlights: